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Reviews page 4 of 6

Slim
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Slim, Master of War: Burma and the Birth of Modern Warfare
Constable and Robinson, 2004, paperback 2005

Nothing less than one of the most interesting soldiers of his generation, Slim's 'smart' style of soldiering paved the way for how we make war today.

'This is a very important book.'  Lieutenant General John Kiszely MC
'A tour-de-force'. Major Gordon Graham MC and Bar, lately Chairman of Butterworths plc


The Evening Press review
At the end of the Second World War, Bill Slim was the little-known leader of a force known to its own members as the Forgotten Army – despite inflicting a series of unprecedented defeats on the Japanese.

Even now his profile remains far below that of Montgomery, the most hyped of his contemporaries. But that is partly because Monty's reputation has become increasingly controversial, while Slim is considered a commander of rare excellence.

Author Rob Lyman seeks to argue to a 21st century readership that Slim was the greatest British general of the war, and one whose methods – such as using manoeuvre and unorthodox approaches rather than head-on assaults – were a forerunner of modern combat doctrine.

Lyman explains a massively complex series of campaigns in India and Burma with admirable clarity, and brings out the human side of Slim's achievement.

Slim was landed with the unenviable task of leading the British Army's longest-ever retreat, taking his force back to India in the teeth of the Japanese. He turned the tables in the great defensive battle of Imphal-Kohima (whose 60th anniversary falls this year), which ended in Japan's biggest land defeat.

Then his multi-racial Fourteenth Army pursued the Japanese back into Burma, where Slim produced his most imaginative stroke to seize their communications centre at Meiktila and unhinge their entire defence.

Lyman's thesis is attractive, but surely it can never be settled whether Slim was a greater general than the more conventional Montgomery, because their respective opponents, the Japanese and the Germans, posed such different challenges that it can be argued they needed different approaches to defeat them.

March 10 2004


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